By Inga W.
Many of us have seen the grand portrait of Lisbeth Gertrude Angell that sits on the fireplace’s mantel in the library. However, few actually know about her lasting impact on Buffalo Seminary. Of SEM’s many notable principals, Ms. Angell may be the most admired and influential of the position. She dedicated half a century of her life to the refinement of young women and the continuation of SEM’s message, and was a leader in establishing SEM as one of Buffalo’s most prominent schools.
After the economic crash of 1893, Ms. Angell’s father’s fortune was lost. Without this money, her future was no longer secure so she was forced to work after graduating from college. She had been teaching math and Latin at a local public school before being recruited by the previous headmistress of SEM, Jessica Beers, to teach math and English. Numerous issues with the incorporating of SEM with other private schools in the area occurred during Beers’ time heading the school, causing her untimely resignation. In 1903, just a few years after beginning work at SEM, Ms. Angell was asked to become the new principal. During her leadership, enrollment tripled and Ms. Angell relocated the school to the current building. While at the old, temporary location, the school was described by inspectors as being a leading school academically, but lacking good housing. This prompted a large donation of land on Bidwell Parkway and the construction of the new school started in 1909.
Ms. Angell, who was known to have been an athlete during her time at Wellesley College, also began one of the most notable SEM traditions in 1916: the Hornet and Jacket teams. Ms. Angell was described as a determined, resourceful woman who stood true to her many rules, treating both students and faculty with respectful determination.